By Manami Shinagawa

It has already been more than two months since I left… But, I am writing about my internship over the summer. I was working as an intern at a restoration workshop in Majorca, Spain. The workshop takes in decorative objects, mainly gilt and painted objects. There, I learned the technique of gilding and how to clean painted objects.

My projects there included:

  1. Build up missing gesso (mixture of rabbit skin glue and chalk whiting: this is the ground under water gilding) to a pair of gilt light stands.
  2. Cleaning of dirt and removal of an overcoating of paint on statue.
  3. Cleaning of old, discolored shellac and applying putty (mixture of rabbit skin glue and chalk whiting, but different proportion than in gesso) to fill losses in a painted marble frame.

Before treatment:

The light stands before treatment: it appeared most of the gilt surface had been lost.

Detail of skirt on statue

There was red paint over on the original paint on the lady's skirt in this statue. I removed the overpaint with dry scraping.

Faux marble painted frame

The shellac finish on this painted frame was discolored because of UV light damage. Therefore, I cleaned it with ammonia. There were some missing areas that I filled with putty.

After treatment:

After treatment: gilding work by my supervisor

Final, the putty fills were color-matched to the original and finished with shellac by my supervisor

Also, I had opportunity of leaning a water gilding method. I made two kinds of water gilding sample boards that used different textures in gesso. First, I prepared boards, to which I applied many layers of gesso. Until the boards become flat, I had to repeat the process of applying gesso and cutting back over and over.

Preparing sample boards

[caption id="attachment_2207" width="640"] Sanding and raised sample board[/caption]

This one is a sample board of sanding and and raised gesso.

Sanding is traditional method and used often on picture frame. I sprinkled sand into wet gesso and, which adhered as it dried. It provides a texture. Raised gesso makes an uneven surface. I painted gesso only on the part I wanted to raise from the otherwise flat gesso surface.

On another board is a method called punchwork. I made decorations with punches on the gesso surface when it was half dry. I used ground nails, dental tools and punches.

Then I applied yellow bole (a combination of glue and coloured clay) over the whole thing two times. In addition, I applied one layer of a red bole only to the highlight areas over the yellow bole. The purpose of the application of bole is to provide a cushioned surface for burnishing and to provide colour enrichment underneath the gold.

Finally, gold leaf is applied on the boards by wetting the surface with size water (a mixture of rabbit skin glue, water and methylated spirits). After the gold has been applied, the whole surface is burnished by gently rubbing a burnisher. It becomes shiny and looks like solid gold.

Finished water gilding samples

My internship in Majorca was great experience! I learned a lot of things. Not only the work,but also, of course I enjoyed the resort location and beach very much!